WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 (Xbox 360) Event Preview/Review Event

There were two separate media events that I was able to attend for this game.  This was nearer to the end of the run for GamersMark, so I never actually did a full review of the game, but I documented my experience with playing the game at a Preview Event, which is the first portion here.

Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations | Publisher: THQ

A recent trend in the game industry is the shift towards user-created content, and the titles that specifically encourage it. Games designed with that intent seem to have two parts to them: the part that the creators make for you to play, and the “tools” for creation that allow you to make a seemingly infinite amount of content. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 is the latest entry in the Smackdown Vs. Raw series, and this year it’s all about user content creation – “It’s Your World Now.” I attended the preview event hosted by THQ in downtown Los Angeles in late August and got a lot of hands-on time with the game.

This year, it’s more about creating your own personal game experience. There are new creation modes, new customization tools, new content, and the community is able to share everything that’s made.

The main menu itself has changed into an interactive tutorial mode of sorts, which boots up as you start the game. Here, you’re able to interact with another AI player to learn all the different moves before actually playing and learn at your own pace; tutorial tips pop up telling you how to perform certain moves or tasks in the ring as well as outside it. Once you accomplish a tip, it will check off and disappear, but you can reset them to teach a friend how to play or perhaps refresh yourself if you’ve gotten rusty. This new tutorial mode allows you to practice in many ways, on several difficulties, and preps you well for what to do during different situations.

The UI itself has received a major overhaul – it is no longer static and actually follows your character around, which is a very welcomed change. A circle with your Superstar’s stamina/momentum is constantly hovering, with an “F” or an “S” showing up when you are able to perform your Finisher or Signature move. At any time you need to be pressing a particular button, it will appear right next to your Superstar (rather than in the corner where the UI used to reside) making it a lot easier to react to the game while it’s happening.

Create-A-Superstar has been improved this year as well – and it’s a blast. Personally, I spent about an hour of the time I spent with the demo just in this mode making the most messed up characters ever seen. As I was making them, a lot of people commented about how “effed up” they looked, or how “messed up” I was. I even put a buff hairy guy in a diva’s outfit – hey, it wasn’t my fault they put it in the game to allow you to do it! But it didn’t go over so well with anyone watching, so I didn’t save him.

As a bonus, my created characters played in the background of a bunch of G4 interviews of WWE Superstars. Hornswaggle jacked the controller from me and started messing around with it during his interview (he said beforehand that he wanted to have fun with the interview and take the controller from me). People probably thought I was working for G4 since I was there playing the game behind it the whole time. At least the G4 guys found the characters I made funny.

Create-A-Superstar has received a big uplift, with all new 3D accessories that actually look and feel like they are on the character and not painted on like last year. There’s a lot of crazy, zany stuff and you can change anything into any color you want. There are also a lot of interface improvements, faster loading, and it’s just a generally more pleasant experience. 2009’s Create-A-Superstar couldn’t hold my attention as long as this year’s has, and that’s a great boon to the game. Another cool thing is the VS. Screen Pose that you can set to give your character a little more personality.

A new customization tool is the Paint Tool, which allows you to draw logos, tattoos – whatever you want, and Superstar Threads, new also, allows you to change a WWE Superstar’s costume as far as colors go. You can’t give them new costume pieces, but each wrestler can be modified in their own unique way depending on their existing outfit. This allows you to keep your favorite superstars more up-to-date as their costumes change. Three alternate attires per character are allowed, and the default one is never overwritten.

There are new Create-A-Finisher additions as well as a brand new finisher: Diving. The diving mode allows you to create Diving attacks, adjust height, speed, and many other settings. The Front Grapple finisher also has possible adjustments to speed, or other unique settings depending on what move is being changed, as well as more animations to choose from.

The biggest addition this year, however, is the Story Designer mode. Just like the Road to Wrestlemania stories in 2009, you’re able to create your own drama starring your favorite Superstars or even your created ones. You can devise matches and moments – such as backstage “discussions” – and change conditions for matches depending on the storyline you create. There is also a cutscene creator that allows you to direct animations and emotions, and even includes a free camera to swoop in on a situation however you like. You can also set up the movies that play in the background during an entrance, have people run in during matches, and even have characters hit by cars or make the vehicle itself explode. There is a lot of options to choose from.

Content sharing is now a big part about the game (if you’re one of the types of people to spend a ton of time making content within the game’s bounds you’re most likely going to want to show it to other people). With THQ’s online search engine you can search for whatever you feel like downloading – a created superstar, custom stories, a finisher or any other type of user content that can expand your personal game experience. You can also preview stuff before saving it, and if you see something that is inappropriate, you’re able to flag it as such for review.

In the Road to Wrestlemania mode, there will be six new stories, including a diva story, and a Create-A-Superstar story. There will be interactive cutscenes to allow you to decide how a superstar acts in their situation, as well as multi-branching story endings so that the decisions you make actually make an impact on how everything goes down.

There’s a planned 60 superstars for the roster this year, and of course ECW is back again. For those with a Wii console who played Smackdown Vs. Raw 2009, rest assured that all of the features that are in the 360 and PS3 versions will be included in the Wii release as well. The Wii version will also get a control overhaul to be more on par with the other versions, and both the Classic and GameCube controllers will be supported. The DS release will have a couple of exclusive features such as a trading card system – to trade cards with friends – and an exclusive match type called Ambulance Match.

The game is slated for an October 20 release. With over 46 million games sold in the franchise, the game should expect to do quite well during the holiday season, especially with all the new content creation modes.

As I mentioned previously, G4 decided to take some video with me as a backdrop and while I was playing with my deformed created wrestlers.  I was playing in the background for at least 85% of the interview shots.  You can first see me at 1m 32s.

Before the interviews started, Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler made comments about how weird it was and asked if I knew who they were.  They were new at the time, so I didn’t know and they pointed out what their wrestling personas were.  Also, the take where Hornswaggle took the controller from me was not included in the video.

The following is what I wrote after attending the Review Event in late October.  The purpose was to get a good two or three hours with the game for purposes of review.  We had a press conference, meals, a couple of meetings, and the hands-on with the game on the second day.  They also gave us lots of free shit, most of which I currently still have laying around my room.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 Review Event hosted by THQ. After being given a presentation that showed the final production of many of the things mentioned in my Preview for the game we had a chance to mess around and see the game in action.

All of the unfinished game modes and creation modes were available to play at the event.   While much of the game is pretty much what to expect from Smackdown vs. Raw, there are always additions and improvements made to the game. As far as game modes go, this year the Royal Rumble was given a complete reworking. The mode is now a lot more representative of what you would expect, and a bit more fun. There are now multiple ways to push your opponent out of the ring, and once they’re out – they’re out. When you try and push an opponent out of the ring, a mini-game of sorts will play out – either making you button mash like crazy or hitting a button at a precise moment to make sure your opponent is defeated.

The big Create Mode added this year is the Scene Editor – and it looks like it’ll be a blast once you get used to its little quirks and options. While sitting and messing around with it for about thirty minutes didn’t allow me to fully get used to the scope of the mode, there are quite a few options to play around with, such as casting, location, and textual speech. The mode may feel lacking only because you don’t get to hear any actual voices (you can’t record any either), but the potential of just having fun messing around with it is well worth the addition.

All the versions of the game looked very good on the HDTVs that they had. There was some discussion about why the PS3 version didn’t look as good as the 360 version, but nothing conclusive – we had no idea whether or not the particular station was just not set up correctly or if that was actually indicative of the PS3 version being slightly worse. However, the differences are so minute that it isn’t even something to worry about.

Wii owners this year will also be pleasantly surprised at the fact that 99% of the content in the PS3/360 versions made its way over to the Wii. The biggest difference, however, is that there is no Tutorial mode. The Wii is also back to supporting straight button input, so there is no more waving your hands around to play, which is apparently what Wii owners wanted out of 2010. In addition, 2010 will support all the Wii’s possible controllers – Wiimote/Nunchuck, Classic Controller, and the GameCube controller.

WWE’s “The Miz” came by to attend the event, as well, and put a little fun into the day. He made a hilarious ruckus about “only being a 78” according to the game’s Overall Rating system, and gave one of the game designers, Bryan Williams, a tough time about it since he just won the US Championship on last week’s Raw. It was quite funny seeing Bryan getting put on the spot like that, and profusely apologizing about having him at that rating, stating it would be different in next year’s game.

There was also a character creation workshop in which everyone made their own characters to compete against one another and win the approval of The Miz. At the end of the workshop, it came down to two characters – my pregnant 8 foot tall “Angry Smurf” named Rodney Cornsmithe and another character that was a recreation of the actual person making the character whom I’ll just call Sunglass Man. The Miz was simply dumbfounded when he looked upon my creation, but he ended up picking Sunglass Man, with my character becoming the “THQ winner,” as picked by another game designer attending the event.

Look for Gamersmark’s full review of Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 later this month.

Unfortunately that review never came to fruition as it was nearer to the end of GamersMark.  I was generally very pleased with the game, and was probably going to give it a 9.5/10.

 

 

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 (Xbox 360) Event Preview

Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations | Publisher: THQ

I had the opportunity to go to THQ’s offices in Agoura Hills recently, braving three hours of traffic and the possibility of being burned alive (not really). Traveling from safe Orange County, into the middle of a triangulation of raging fires in the canyons, I was able to play an early build of WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 for about an hour.

After my somewhat scathing review of 2008, I am very glad to say that the game has been improved quite a bit, with nearly all of my concerns addressed. Personally, the ranking on the the fun-gauge has increased from “Annoying” to “Could Be Fun.”

If there was one thing that I’m most excited about, its that the loading times have been drastically cut down. Load times aren’t nearly as excruciating to wait through anymore. Not only that, there is a simple way to turn entrances off — right before each match you can select On or Off, resulting in even less possible load times, and more getting right into the action.

Unlike the former WWE 24/7 mode, the new Road to Wrestlemania tells scripted stories for particular superstars rather than a bunch of generic ones for your selected wrestler. As a result, you feel like you’re playing through an actual storyline, the likes of which you’d see in the actual TV show. This alone alleviates a majority of the problems I personally had with the WWE 24/7 mode, as this revamped mode will definitely be more appealing to play and finish. There is still a “career” mode in the game, but it’s a little different than what you may have seen before. Instead of going through the day-to-day aspects of WWE 24/7, you can have your wrestler fight his way up to a particular title that you select. You can also reassign titles to make the roster reflect the current WWE champions. However, even though there are many features being added, that doesn’t come without cuts, as Create-A-Championship mode will be left out this year.

Frame rate has also been stabilized, and the biggest improvement can be seen in matches with more than four wrestlers, which is a welcome improvement for those Battle Royale fans or six-man “Money-In-the-Bank” marathoners. The graphics are about the same, but since the frame rate has been improved upon, the game visually feels better for it.

There are a few new features that will be good additions, provided they don’t get dropped before the game’s release. The massively improved user interface allows you to get into the kind of match you want to play faster and easier, with at least as many options as have been offered before. The Inferno match will make its first appearance — the ring is lit on fire and the goal is to beat up your opponent and raise the temperature to 300 degrees and throw him out of the ring, setting him on fire. Some additions to Tag Team modes have also been made.

Controls remain mostly unchanged, but there are a couple of things to take note of. The most significant addition to the gameplay is the recovery button. When you take a hard hit and are about to come up, you can defend yourself by pressing a shoulder button and block any incoming attack from the other player, allowing you to get back on your feet and perhaps swing the match back in your favor. In the Wii version, opening entrances have also become a little more interactive, with the option of getting the fans riled up by doing certain expressions at the right time.

There were no online capabilities shown, but there will be a feature called the Highlight Reel that allows you to record certain matches and share them online in a YouTube-like fashion. The capability allows you to put reels together with a video-editing tool, and add in graphics or sound from the effects provided. The clips can be up to a minute long.

Another interesting addition is the Create-A-Finisher feature. A “Finisher” can consist of up to ten different parts. Depending on which move you input when doing the finisher, you are given yet another list of animations to continue it. You can have the resulting combo be one part or ten parts, its all up to you — on top of that, you can speed up or slow it down in certain parts. Something that I found humorous was if you picked up someone you could keep flipping them back and forth on top of your back over and over before you actually did anything harmful to them. You can assign your Finishers to any superstar or created wrestler.

Since this is Yuke’s second try at the game on the PS3, you can definitely notice the improvements. Toss in some user interface enhancements, as well as some new modes, and WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 aims to be the wrestling game you should own if you’re a fan of the WWE.

 

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 (PS3) Review

Developer: Yuke’s Media Creations / Publisher: THQ Inc. || Overall: 5.0/10

The SmackDown Vs. Raw series has been around for a while. With its long-since forgotten relatives WCW/nWo World Tour and WCW/nWo Revenge on the N64, THQ’s wrestling formula hasn’t changed all that much from those days. It may have a new coat of paint and an updated roster, but SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 can’t hold a candle to the original wrestling games that fans played to death when they were released.

SmackDown Vs. Raw is basically a 3D fighting game in its core foundation. While it’s not exactly “traditional” in that there is a life bar, the concept is still the same – beat the crap out of your opponent and make him wish he was never born. Wrestling games are a lot slower than normal fighters, because they try to mimic “real life” wrestling, whatever that may be. In SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008, you take control of wrestlers with practically no personality (that is, if they had any in the first place) and typically win by submission or three-count pin-fall.

In the game, you have some basic moves. You can punch, kick, smack, slap, run, weak grab, or strong grab your opponent to lay the hurt down on them. If you’ve played any wrestling game by THQ, most of it has remained unchanged over the years. The only thing worth commenting on if you haven’t played one of these games for a long time is that once you grab your opponent, you can execute a move by flicking the right analog stick in a certain direction to perform a specific move in your current character’s repertoire. While it isn’t as straightforward as pressing a button, it seems a bit more intuitive since you are mimicking a move as your character does it, in a way. If you get a hang of the fighting system, you might be able to have a good time with the game, as there is a lot of stuff to do if you really put your mind to it. If the system doesn’t really appeal to you, it’ll be hard finding your money’s worth if you’re a newcomer to wrestling games. You’ll also be furiously hitting on all buttons way more than you’d probably like to, so get ready to give your fingers a workout.

SmackDown Vs. Raw 2008 is the first game in the series to appear on the PS3. The 2007 version was canceled, to WWE’s major dismay, and you can see that there are still many kinks that didn’t get finished or optimized to a satisfactory standard. At the top of the list are the loading screens. Holy crap, there are a ton of loading screens in this game. Every time you start a match, there’s a loading screen. Before you even get to PLAY the match you just waited through the loading screen for, you have to go through three forced loading screens, even if you don’t want to watch the opening entrances of the wrestlers. It is so annoying to sit through what seems like five minutes of loading just to play a match – and worst of all, you can’t even turn the wrestler’s entrances off so you can avoid all that extra loading. Or if there IS a way to turn it off, they didn’t make it easy to find since I couldn’t find it in the Options menu at all.

As far as game modes go, there is a very barebones “career”-type mode called WWE 24/7, which is new to the series. In WWE 24/7, you can take a WWE Superstar or a created wrestler of your choice through a bunch of shoddy barely-thought-through storylines (and you thought the actual storylines you see on TV were bad?) with canned animations, e-mails that have voice-overs, e-mails that don’t have voice-overs, and spending money to unlock opening entrances (goody, more load times!). Online is also horribly laggy, and I always seem to be at a disadvantage against other players online because they somehow mastered the non-responsive controls in online mode and take advantage of the lag people get to absolutely dominate you. That’s probably beside the point, though, which is that it’s completely not worth playing against a human since there’s barely a difference in the satisfaction you may get from pinning an AI player. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that practically every wrestler you’d want to wrestle with is included in the game, as well as the ECW roster, making its debut this year.

Graphics are “meh” at best. Horribly annoying canned animations give absolutely no personality to any of the wrestlers you see, even though there are unique entrances for all the WWE Superstars. A limitation in WWE 24/7 mode seems to be that there can only be four characters on screen at the same time, and often there is no continuity between the story and what you see in the animations between characters. They are just replaced randomly with other wrestlers, so you’ll see the same scenes over and over. It might also be a boon that some of the models in the game look like the real wrestlers, but some of them look very off, like Edge. The sound is okay at best as the music can get kind of repetitive. The voice-overs are done by the actual wrestlers and personalities from WWE, so credit should be given for actually getting the real people to come in and donate their talents towards the project, although you might get sick of just about everyone’s voice by the time you’re through with WWE 24/7 mode.

In the end SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is probably not worth your time. If you really commit to putting time into the game, you’ll be able to find a lot of content to busy yourself with. However horribly executed it may be, there is still a lot of playing time to be had. If you’re a long time fan of the series and you’ve stuck with it this far, you’re probably getting what you expect from a yearly “sports” title, but don’t hold your breath if you expect to find something redeeming in this year’s edition of SmackDown Vs. Raw. Maybe the 2009 edition of the game will have a fleshed out WWE 24/7 mode that will actually be worth playing, as it did show promise of becoming an interesting play mode.

 

Red Faction II (PC) Review

Alright, I was expecting a lot out of this, since the first one was so creative and unique in many ways. I gave it too many chances, I should’ve known it was going to be godawful as soon as the game started and it took me twenty minutes to figure out that you’re supposed to blow up a staircase or something (the wall is invincible). The back of the Red Faction II case boasts that it has the Geo-Mod technology that RF1 had so I was pretty pumped up. I was very dissapointed. It’s more of a team game, except the thing is your teammates can’t die. You can simply stand back and let them do all the work for you. The back of the case also brags about the ability to control vehicles, I saw at least 30 vehicles that are completely unable to be interacted with. The enemies have clever scripted lines everytime you do a specific task such as “GRENADE!” and “I have a few bullets saved for you!” Please take note that they say these things even when there’s no possible way they can see you or what you’re doing. The weapons are plentiful at the least: you start out with grenades and some kind of assault rifle, next thing you know you’re packed with about half a trillion rockets and a launcher. Why anyone would ever EVER want to switch from the rocket launcher to some other weapon is beyond me. It’s one of those situations where you wonder “Should I shoot them with a rifle for three hours or just shoot a shitload of rockets and blow them all to hell in a max time of six seconds?” Unlike RF1, it involves absolutely NO strategic effort whatsoever, you just run around shooting people with a rocket launcher. That is until you get to the helicopter part, this stage is quite different. You are now shooting people with rockets IN A HELICOPTER!! The designers of this masterpiece have really stretched their imagination limits on this one. So after you kill 3/4 of the city’s population, the helicopter gets shot down (despite the fact that I had well over 50% “heli-health” at the time that it happened) And thus comes the exciting sewer adventure. After you wonder around for countless hours looking for pipes to swim in you end up in a subway station. Dodging the train was bad enough, but they had to invent an enemy that challenges even the Cliff Racer from Morrowind in pure annoyance. A small bug robot thing which I like to call “fucking bastard” comes up to you and simply explodes on you for no reason. Sure that isn’t that bad, but they had to put about 400 of them in every three feet of the station. I’d like to take a small time out to add the fact that in no parts of these stages are any walls able to be blown up, some floors can be holed, but is there any hidden wall items? Of course not, because there’s no such thing as “paths that can be used as a shortcut instead of wondering around a scripted path like an idiot.” This really makes me sick, and they shouldn’t have even named it Red Faction II if it had nothing to do with the system used in RF1. But let’s slow down here for a second…what DOES it have to do with RF1? Well your team is called the Red Faction, that is it. They are not dressed or organized like the Red Faction at all. Now if you haven’t already noticed, this game is completely pointless and is just like every other ordinary FPS out there (including ones made years ago). Well anyway, a few years later you get to take control of a giant suit of armor and…you’ll never believe this…shoot rockets at people. I was shooting things hoping for a path to open up for thirty straight minutes. I kept shooting rockets at some kind of stumps sticking out of the ground, then I figured out that you have to shoot right in the middle of them. Gone are the days of shooting near it and watching part of it blow away, or just simply walking over them. Also, the whole time this is happening some army cliche kept shouting “GOOD SHOT!” This game sucks. You end up having to protect some guys on the street and jumping across buildings, some guys were shooting at me from below so I jumped down adn immediately died in the undodgable fire wall circling the building. I really didn’t give a shit and I quickly turned the game off. It was by far the best part of the entire game. In conclusion, this is NOT an RF game, it’s more like a Doom meets Unreal Tournament kind of shindig. I’m just glad I only rented it and didn’t go out and buy it first thing like some suckers. I got way more pleasure off playing Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the SNES, pretty bad huh? Stay away from RF2 unless you like blowing your money on pointless piles of crap. Graphics: 9 Sound: 7 Replayabilty: 0 Fun Factor: -5 Controls: 7 Overall: 18 out of 50 stars (basically a 4/10)

MULTIPLAYER:

This one’s going to be short due to there’s absolutely nothing new in Multiplayer. There’s a few maps and you choose bots to play against, nothing special. What IS special however is the gameplay when you fire up a map. I’ve never seen a better deathmatch on any FPS game than RF1, all the walls that are able to be blown up, the awesome flamethrowers that you can throw the gas canister from, and Geo-Mod secrets. Well they’ve somehow screwed up that up in RF2, they include a few weapons and enable 2 whole walls in all maps combined to be blown up. I even saw that there’s a map from RF1 available, “There’s no possible way they can screw THIS up!” I shouted to myself for no apparent reason…..I was wrong. Imagine this, you’re transported to the good ol’ two-base map of RF1, but you noticed something’s changed…The weapons on the ground no longer look at all like weapons, they’re now cardboard cut-outs colored blue and red. But they act as if they were real weapons if you walk over them. I can see how some would like this but I find it just annoying that the whole map is covered in large blue and red icons, I guess it’s because I’m “sane.” Anyway, I immediately ran up the top of my base and got the huge rocket launcher (which now isn’t near as big) and shot it…I almost puked. 1. The rocket hit the wall, blowing up about 1/8 as big as the rocket from RF1, I mean that rocket was fucking huge and hurt you from miles away. Now that was firepower. 2. The only thing it did to the wall was make a big black spot. Seeing as RF1 was able to make every square inch of wall blastable, why the hell can’t RF2?? This made my stomach cringe in pain. The most memorable moment I’d say was when I was in a deathmatch with two people with idiotic names and I tried to shoot the bridge out from under them. It made a big black mark, then about three seconds the mark dissapeared. Thank you THQ! There’s other multiplayer modes but I was too sick to try them out. Bagman: You grab a bag and try to hold it for the longest time without getting killed. O_o Capture the Flag: Get the other team’s flag and bring it to your base. o_O Arena: Like deathmatch except everyone has the same weapon. o_o Team Arena: Same as above, with teams. This game sucks, there’s no way around it. Whoever finds this game even remotely fun should be injected with the same shit the designing team of RF2 was, only eight hundred times more. (I’m looking at you Mark) Go get Bloodrayne instead.